Caught on Camera: Los Angeles Police Shoot and Kill Homeless Man

(Reuters) – A video posted online shows Los Angeles police scuffling with and shooting a homeless man during a confrontation, The Los Angeles Times reported on its web site.

The video, posted on Facebook, shows several uniformed Los Angeles Police Department officers scuffling with a man in a downtown area where homeless people pitch tents at night known as skid row. Once on the ground, the man continues struggling, at which point several shots are fired.

A series of civilian deaths at the hands of police in the past year has become a touchstone for trouble race relations in the United States, most notably in Ferguson, Missouri, when an unarmed teen-ager was shot and killed by a police officer, triggering weeks of protests and some rioting. A grand jury cleared the officer of wrongdoing.

The homeless man in the video was declared dead at a hospital shortly after the shooting, the Times reported, citing police spokesman Sgt. Barry Montgomery. Police could not be reached by Reuters to confirm the report.

The man has not yet been identified.

Witnesses gave varying accounts about the shooting, with some saying the man had reached for one of the officer’s guns and one saying he heard an officer saying “He’s got my gun.” Other witnesses said the police had used a taser on the man before shooting him.

Reached by the Times, Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said “My heart just started pounding just watching” the video. “These situations are just so horrific.”

Soboroff said whether the man tried to take an officer’s gun was a critical matter in the shooting.

“To me, that would be the only explanation that something would happen that quickly,” the Times quoted him as saying.

Soboroff said the LAPD, its independent inspector general and the district attorney’s office would all investigate the shooting “very, very carefully,” the newspaper reported.

Police were originally called to the area to investigate a robbery.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)